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This, along with the resilience and cheapness of the medium (iron, rather than glass), meant that ferrotypes soon replaced collodion positives as the favourite ‘instant’ process used by itinerant photographers.The ferrotype process was described in 1853 by Adolphe-Alexandre Martin, but it was first patented in 1857 by Hamilton Smith in America, and by Willian Kloen and Daniel Jones in England.Case Ferrotypes were sometimes put into cheap papier-mâché cases or cardboard mounts, but today they are frequently found loose.Size Most ferrotypes are fairly small, about 2×3 inches.William and Peter Neff manufactured the iron used for the plates, which they called ‘melainotype plates’.A rival manufacturer, Victor Griswold, made a similar product and called them ‘ferrotype plates’.In terms of quantity, the gem was the most prolifically produced form of photograph in the 1860s in America.

They were still being made by while-you-wait street photographers as late as the 1950s.

The huge camera in this photograph is the Diamond Gun Ferrotype Camera, which was made by the International Metal and Ferrotype Company, Chicago, Illinois and dates from the 1920s.

The ability to utilise a very under exposed image meant that a photographer could prepare, expose, develop, and varnish a ferrotype plate in just a few minutes.

The ferrotype process was a variation of the collodion positive, and used a similar process to wet plate photography.

A very underexposed negative image was produced on a thin iron plate.

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